If you have never been to the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it is definitely something you should plan on doing while in Florida. While in Orlando in May of 1999, we visited the complex and has left a lasting impression.
Apparently Kennedy Space Center has been NASA’s primary launch center of human spaceflight since its first launch in December of 1968. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by the Kennedy Space Center. While the first Apollo flights and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the launches were managed by the Kennedy Space Center and its previous organization, the Launch Operations Directorate.
Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center shortly after liftoff; prior missions held control throughout the entire mission.
There are about 700 facilities grouped across the center’s 144,000 acres which opened on August 1, 1967. Among the unique facilities at the Kennedy Space Center is the 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA’s largest rockets, Operations and Checkout Building which houses the astronaut crew quarters, and 3-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on-site. This is where we started.
While we were there we learned that the space program began in the early ’50s and has manned over 110 flights since then. They began with the Mercury and Gemini programs, which were followed in the ’60s by the Apollo moon missions aboard the gargantuan Saturn V rockets. When they say gargantuan, they aren’t kidding. (more on that later). Then in the ’70s they remodeled the facilities to accommodate the Space Shuttle program.
After looking around for a while we got on a bus (included in admission) and made our way to the first stop, which was the 39 Observatory Gantry. On the way, we passed the Vehicle Assembly Building. This building is considered one of the tallest buildings in the world. Once we reached the Observatory we were all herded into the theater to watch a short film about the space program, and how it has developed. After the movie, we went into another room that had a model of a space shuttle and we watched a mock launching. A little later we went outside and walked around the building. From here we could see the actual launchpad. That was really exciting for everyone on the tour.
A little later we got back on the bus and made our way to the other stop on the tour, the Apollo/Saturn V Center. We had heard it was huge, but I was completely shocked. My mouth was on the floor. It is incredibly huge. It is 363 feet in length and weighs 6.2 million pounds, and definitely something worth seeing. I was amazed and completely in awe. We spent quite a while in there looking at all the paraphernalia and accessories. It is definitely worth saving some time to explore this area. You won’t be disappointed.
We spent so much time in the Visitors Center and the Apollo V Center building, that we kind of missed out on some of the other great activities that the Kennedy Space Center has to offer. I would have loved to have visited the Astronaut Memorial where they honor NASA’s fallen heroes. These are the elite astronaut corps that gave their lives in the pursuit of knowledge that lies beyond our Earth. I think seeing a show in their I-Max theater would have been cool too. Oh well, always great reasons to return one day.
If you are planning on visiting soon, here is some helpful information: Tickets can be purchased the day of your visit at the Main Entrance, or can be purchased in advance and picked up at Will Call. The Visitor Center is open daily from 10 am – 4 pm, with bus tours leaving every 15 minutes. The last tour daily departs at 3:30 pm. These tours are approximately 2 hours in length. They also have kennels available if you have a dog with you, however, you do need to make reservations in advance. Please check out the KSC website for more information. Hope you enjoy your experience. I know we sure did.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Information
Daily 10 am – 4 pm
Included with Admission
- Heroes and Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®
- Rocket Garden
- Nature and Technology
- Space Shuttle Atlantis ® with Shuttle Launch Experience®
- NASA Now
- Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted
- Universe Theater
- IMAX Theater
- Children’s Play Dome
- Character appearances
- Additional photo opportunities located in the Atlantis West Pavilion.
In addition to these attractions, a complimentary admission ticket valid for use beginning January 1, 2021 through December 25, 2021 is included with this ticket
For guests health and safety, the following attractions are unavailable and not included with admission:
- KSC Bus Tour including the Apollo/Saturn V Center
- Dine With An Astronaut and astronaut appearances
- Special Interest Tours
- Overnight Adventures
- Astronaut Training Experience® and Mars Base 1
Admission allows you to experience the main visitor complex today and explore even more in 2021 with a complimentary admission ticket valid beginning January 1, 2021.
Adult (12+) $57
Child (3-11) $47
Enjoy a year of visits to the visitor complex and explore attractions including Space Shuttle Atlantis, Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted and the Rocket Garden.
Adult (12+) $82
Child (3-11) $67
ATLANTIS ANNUAL PASS
Enjoy a year of unlimited admission, including free parking, 10% off admission for up to six accompanying guests per visit, and discounts on food and retail.
Adult (12+) $96
Child (3-11) $78
EXPLORER ANNUAL PASS
Child (3-11) $116
New entrance is open on Monday, 12/17/18. Entrance is located on Space Commerce Way: specific driving directions below. Please note: the former entrance to the visitor complex is now for crewmembers and deliveries only.
From Cocoa Beach on State Road 528
Travel north on A1A to SR 528 west. Take exit # 49 for SR 3 toward Merritt Island/Kennedy Space Center. Turn right/north onto SR 3 and continue north for approximately 8 miles/13 km. Turn left/west onto Space Commerce Way and go approximately 1.5 miles/2.4 km. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on the right.
From Orlando on State Road 50
From Orlando, travel east on SR 50 for approximately 50 miles/80 km. Passing I-95, turn right/east at the next intersection onto SR 405 and follow signs for approximately 10 miles/16 km. Turn right onto Space Commerce Way and go approximately 1.2 miles/2 km. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on the left.
From Orlando on State Road 528
From Orlando, travel east on SR 528 for approximately 50 miles/80 km to SR 407 exit on left for Kennedy Space Center and Titusville. Continue on SR 407 to end at SR 405. Turn right/east onto SR 405 and follow signs for Kennedy Space Center for approximately 7.5 miles/12 km on SR 405. Turn right onto Space Commerce Way and go approximately 1.2 miles/2 km. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on the left.
From Daytona Beach on Interstate 95
Travel I-95 South to Exit #215 onto Highway 50. Turn left/east onto Highway 50. Take a right onto SR 405 and continue straight, following signs for Kennedy Space Center. Travel for approximately 10 miles/16 km. Turn right onto Space Commerce Way and go approximately 1.2 miles/2 km. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on the left.
From Miami on Interstate 95
Travel I-95 North to Exit #212 SR 407, and turn right on SR 407. Continue on SR 407 to end at SR 405. Turn right/east onto SR 405 and follow signs for Kennedy Space Center for approximately 7.5 miles/12 km on SR 405. Turn right onto Space Commerce Way and go approximately 1.2 miles/2 km. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is located on the left.
28o30’56.0″N and 80o40’54″W. Locate with GPS devices as Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Do not use Kennedy Space Center as you will be directed to an incorrect location.
The visitor complex parking lot accommodates motorcycles, automobiles and oversized vehicles such as RVs. Parking fees are collected at the entrance to the lot. Parking for visitors with disabilities is available in Lot 2 with valid parking permit. Drivers are also welcome to drop off and pick up visitors in Lot 2. Annual passholders receive complimentary parking with valid pass. Multiday ticket holders also receive one complimentary parking voucher. Parking is accessible 30 minutes before complex opening.
- Motorcycles – $5.00
- Automobiles – $10.00
- Oversized vehicles, motor homes or RVs – $15.00
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